A Walk Down Memory Lane
The six new members of the Union Pines Athletic Hall of Fame are uniquely intertwined with each other as a result of the time they spent at the school.
One of Friday night's inductees, Dr. George Griffin, was the principal during the time that Andy Kelly, Tyrone Ross, Jeff Dowd and Mike Apple made their marks on the athletic fields and basketball courts.
Another inductee, Carl Salmon, was a teacher and coach during that period, and Dowd and Apple were teammates. Apple went on to become a teacher and coach at Union Pines during Ross' and Kelly's time at the school.
"It's amazing how athletics connects so many parts of a school and so many parts of a community," said Hall of Fame Chairman Bobby Purvis after the ceremonies held in James Steed Auditorium. "The school is not about bricks and mortar, it's about the hearts and souls of its people.
"We've had some people with great hearts and souls. That's what makes this place unique."
The Hall of Fame Class of 2007 was honored before Friday's basketball games. They were also recognized during the intermission between the girls' game and boys' game.
Pursuing the Dream
Before being inducted, Salmon was the presenter for Andy Kelly, who starred in basketball at Union Pines before going on to become the only Viking boys' player to play in the ACC.
The 6-foot-6 Kelly overcame a childhood accident that cost him the sight in one eye to become an outstanding shooter of the basketball. He was the player of the year in the Central Tar Heel Conference on a 1989 Viking squad that won 17 games in a row. He averaged 20.1 points that year and 16.1 for his three-year varsity career.
In the pursuit of his dream to play in the ACC, Kelly spent a year at Fort Union Prep and two years at Chowan Junior College before signing a full scholarship to play at Clemson.
As a senior, Kelly was the starting center on a Clemson squad that lacked height, taking on the likes of UNC's Rasheed Wallace and Cherokee Parks of Duke. The Tigers were picked to finish last in the ACC, but the 1994-95 team under coach Rick Barnes (now at Texas) tied for fourth place and defeated Duke twice.
Salmon recalled seeing a news article in which Barnes described Kelly as "pound for pound the toughest player I ever coached."
"And, by the way," Salmon said, "Andy chased down that dream."
Today the owner of a successful business, Kelly was introduced by his wife, Jennifer.
"Everybody on this list had something to do with where I am today," Andy Kelly said. "This is one of the greatest honors I've ever had."
Passion and Purpose
Tron Ross was the presenter for her husband, Tyrone Ross, a football, basketball and track star for the Vikings, and a three-year starter at linebacker at North Carolina Central. In his senior year at Union Pines, he caught 36 passes for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He was an ironman in football, playing almost every play on offense and defense.
"I've heard a lot of things about how good he was," said Tron Ross, a Pinecrest graduate. "Everything he did at Union Pines and the values he learned from his family are a part of him now."
With the State Highway Patrol for 15 years, Tyrone Ross grew up on a farm located behind the high school. He recalled the 100 degree days, the gnats that were on the football mouthpiece when he removed it, the grueling drills and the hot water breaks.
As a senior, the Viking football team lost its first two games before going on to come within two games of playing for a state championship. As a basketball player, Ross patterned himself after Jeff Dowd.
Ross thanked his teammates, parents -- "my mom was my greatest fan" -- and presented a framed photograph to Jimmy Chalflinch, a coach from his youth days. He also thanked former athletic director Bill Medlin for being the first person to make him believe he could play at the next level and Purvis for convincing him he had to work hard for what he wanted.
"God gave me the ability to play at a high level," he said. "I played with a passion and a purpose. I would do it all over the same way."
Presenter Bill Wade, Dowd's basketball coach at Union Pines, recalled once hearing his point guard described as the second best guard in the state after Michael Jordan.
Dowd and Apple were members of the 1981-82 squad that went 27-1, coming within one win of making it to the state final. He was all-conference in both basketball and track three times before earning a scholarship to play basketball at Appalachian State where he was the team MVP as a senior.
Wade described Dowd as a leader on and off the court who left no question that academics came first. He overcame an automobile accident involving his family when he was 8 years old, that resulted in a leg being broken in three places, dimming the prospects for an athletic career.
As a youth, Dowd remembered shooting baskets on outdoor courts until it was too dark to see the rim. He wore No. 31 throughout his athletic career in honor of his father.
"Jeff's dad, John Dowd, was one of the best role models you could have," Wade said.
Dowd recalled his elementary school teacher Edith Moore bringing home his homework while he was recovering from the accident and encouraging him in other ways. Later at Union Pines, his friend Darryl Person, a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee, and Dowd were so close they were referred to as "Butch and Sundance."
In the banking business since his graduation from college, he and his wife, Victoria, have twin daughters. He also has a son and two grandchildren.
"Now in sports, I'm helping my daughters become the best they can be," he said. "The support I got at Union Pines was truly awesome. I will always be a proud Viking."
Toward the end of his remarks, Dowd left some advice for current students.
"Don't take this time for granted," he said. "Make sure you do the best you can every day. Don't have to look back thinking, wouldashoulda."
Apple, who was presented by his wife and former Union Pines classmate, Dawn, called the evening a walk down memory lane.
"I felt like I had a charmed life because I always had people to help and support me," he said.
Apple came into his own as a basketball player in his junior year when the team bounced back from a 1-9 start and then got hot and "forgot how to lose." He earned conference MVP honors twice, and along with Dowd helped lead the 1981-82 squad to a record of 27-1. He also earned all-conference honors for two years in track.
After earning a full scholarship to play basketball at Guilford College, he returned to Union Pines as a math teacher and coach. He left to take the head basketball coaching position at Western Harnett in 1997 before moving to Pinecrest.
Apple described the incredible support the student body and community gave the 1981-82 team as making the players feel like rock stars.
"I think I was in the golden age of basketball at Union Pines," he said. "As a basketball coach, I've chased that feeling for 21 years. I think I'll chase it until I get it."
Apple had only three head basketball coaches throughout his high school and college careers, beginning with Jim Mashburn in elementary school and Wade in high school. His described his parents, Helen and Louis Apple, as great supporters of his playing and coaching career.
"I'm very humbled to be inducted into this sports hall of fame," he said. "I have a very unique perspective as a student-athlete, a teacher, a coach and the parent of a Union Pines graduate. I feel like I know this place."
Salmon was the coach of the 1975-76 Union Pines state championship girls' basketball team that was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a part of 2004's first class.
During his 35-year coaching career at Cameron Elementary and Union Pines, the Campbell graduate coached boys' and girls' basketball, football and track. His teams won 446 games and numerous conference regional and district basketball championships. He was also active in state coaches' associations and as a member of the NCHSAA board.
"Carl was dedicated to helping every student be the best they could be, and he worked tirelessly to do that," presenter Gene Wall said. "Gruff, yes, demanding, definitely, loving without question."
Salmon praised Wall, a booster leader, and all of the other people that support Union Pines by helping raise money for athletics. He also recognized all of the athletes who will not make the Hall of Fame that have help make Union Pines what it is.
He thanked his family for making it possible for him to attend college, teach and coach -- something he didn't think would be possible as a youth.
"There is so much emotion in this body for this place," he said, "if it opened up, I don't think it would ever stop."
Love for Union Pines
Ross said during his remarks, "Anytime you think of Union Pines, you think of Carl Salmon and Dr. George Griffin."
But when Griffin, the principal at Union Pines from 1972-1985 and from 2001-2003, received the Hall of Fame information form, he had to be reminded by Purvis to complete it.
"In my heart, I didn't feel I belonged in this august body," he said. "I never scored a point, I never jumped a hurdle, I never gained a yard on the field."
"Athleticism was not in his bag of tricks," Medlin said in presenting him.
But Purvis persevered to get the information on a man who supported athletics as a principal, as assistant superintendent of Moore County schools and as a Viking fan.
"He (Purvis) told me, you've always been my boss, but everybody voted for you and you're going to be inducted whether you like it or not," Griffin said.
Griffin said he is proud of the athletic facility improvements and the coaches he hired during his tenure at the school.
"The importance the coaches have had on people's lives give me tears of joy," he said. "I will always love Union Pines, the home of the Vikings."
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